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Flo-Jo's legacy: Does anyone in track and field today even come close to her greatness?

It’s been 36 years since anyone in track & field other than the legendary Florence Griffith Joyner has touched the women’s 100m and 200m world records. Even today, 26 years after her passing, her spirit lives through heartfelt tributes from icons who admire her not just for her speed but also for her unique style. Flo-Jo was a trendsetter ahead of her time, rocking one-legged catsuits, flashy acrylic nails, and couture jewelry on the track, blazing past competitors with style to spare. But that’s not all—Flo-Jo married into one of the most iconic sporting families, adding to her legacy.

Her love story with Olympic triple-jump champion Al Joyner still melts hearts today, and their daughter, Mary Ruth Joyner, is living proof of their strong bond. Plus, at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Flo-Jo snagged three golds and a silver, while her sister-in-law, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, won two golds in the heptathlon and long jump. Together, they made a formidable team and decades later, Jackie Joyner-Kersee fondly reminisces about Flo-Jo’s legacy.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s heartfelt words about sister-in-law and track & field phenom Florence Griffith Joyner

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According to Vogue, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who later became Flo-Jo’s track & field teammate and sister-in-law, said last year on PBS, “Florence transcended our sport.” Jackie went on to talk about how people eagerly anticipated not just Flo-Jo’s latest fashion statements on the track but also the incredible records she would shatter.

Poll of the day

What do you think about Jackie Joyner-Kersee's iconic comment on Flo-Jo's legacy?

Inspiring

Controversial

Heartfelt

Overrated

Jackie said, “She took track and field off of the sports page and onto the front page. She brought in more people wanting to know more not just about her but also our sport.” Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Flo-Jo had a close bond. In fact, Jackie and Florence attended the University of California, UCLA.

Jackie also ended up marrying her track & field coach, Bob Kersee, who coached Flo-Jo as well. Jackie and Flo-Jo even appeared together on the cover of Sports Illustrated for their Olympic golds at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. But did you know Al actually asked his sister, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, to set him up with Flo-Jo?

Jackie Joyner-Kersee played matchmaker for Al Joyner with Flo-Jo

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Al Joyner was smitten with Florence Griffith from the moment he first saw her in a corridor at the University of Oregon during the 1980 Olympic track & field trials. When Jackie enrolled at UCLA, where Florence was also studying, Al turned to his sister for help. Jackie warned him, “She won’t like you.” When Al asked “why,” Jackie teased, “Because I don’t like you.”  

In 1986, after graduating from Arkansas State, Al relocated to Los Angeles. That Halloween, he playfully spotted Florence dressed as a bride in a costume. “You’re ready to marry me,” he joked. For the next year, he continued to woo her with roses every Tuesday. Finally, on July 17, 1987, he proposed, and she wore that same dress at their wedding later that year. The soulmates welcomed Mary Ruth Joyner, born on November 15, 1990.

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When Florence tragically passed away on September 21, 1998, it devastated the family. “I call her cell phone, just to listen to her voice, because it still is on the recording,” Al shared weeks after her death. The outpouring of love Al received helped him cope with the loss. Nearly six weeks later, at the Park West theater, Al Joyner and his sister, Olympic champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee, accepted the ARETE Life Award, honoring Flo-Jo’s enduring legacy.

Years after Flo-Jo’s death, from 1999 to 2003, even Al Joyner served as an assistant track & field coach specializing in women’s jumps at UCLA. The bond of love and track and field history that Flo-Jo, Al Joyner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Bob Kersee created together still holds strong today. Jackie’s comment captures just how special their connection was. What do you think about their remarkable journey? Share your thoughts below!